Crenshaw

fc9781250043238

by Katherine Applegate
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Jackson’s parents are out of money again and he and his little sister are worried that they will have to live in their minivan like they did last time. Jackson spends most of the book fighting the reappearance of his imaginary friend, a huge cat named Crenshaw, but with a little help he is finally able to express himself to his parents and let go of a little grownup worry.

This book is heart-wrenching in parts, especially where Jackson or Robin describe being hungry or selling their stuff. The 4th and 5th graders in my library’s book club apparently didn’t really identify as strongly with Jackson or seem as strongly affected by his story as their parents did. My colleague and I also had slightly different takes: she was irked by Jackson’s parents’ tendency to look on the bright side of things and felt that they were ignoring the problem and the kids’ reactions. Meanwhile, my reaction was that the parents were doing the best they could and that sometimes putting on a happy face is the only thing you can do to keep going. I thought the parents’ fights were realistic but not too scary, and the ending was a little contrived but also hedged a bit to make up for it (spoiler alert: the dad gets offered a job and a place to stay).

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